ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — “Our numbers are absolutely staggering. Our hospitals are completely full. Our health care workers are exhausted,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said, outlining a desperate call from medical professionals as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.
Winnebago County Health Department Dr. Sandra Martell said the county is averaging 500 new COVID-19 cases per day. Although the omicron variant has been detected, in 15 cases so far, it is not yet the dominant variant, over delta, but Martell says she expects it to be soon.
Martell said there have been 1,493 cases reported Saturday through Monday, and five people have died, with ages between 49 and 96.
Hospitalizations have seen a 15% increase since Dec 31st, with 219 people in hospital for treatment, up from 187 a week ago.
Martell said there are 45 patients in the ICU, with 11% of those on ventilators.
She also said there are currently 10 patients in residence at local emergency rooms, as there are only 2 ICU beds available in Winnebago County.
This means hospitals are operating “in crisis mode,” Martell said, with staffing and resources stretched thin.
“We are hitting a very critical time where resources are very limited,” Martell added.
“Stop listening to the rumors. Start listening to… Dr. Martell is here to provide accurate information…. They’re telling you that there’s 2 ICU beds. They’re telling you that 90% of people who are hospitalized are not vaccinated. Those are the facts,” McNamara said.
“Let’s hope that you’re not in an accident. Let’s hope that a loved one doesn’t have a heart procedure that’s needed immediately. Let’s hope that you don’t need any medical care, or any of your loved ones,” he added.
Winnebago County Board Chairman Joe Chiarelli recounted his battle with COVID-19, saying that after initially testing positive while being asymptomatic, ten days later he was paralyzed and coughing up blood, crediting his wife for taking him to the hospital and saving his life. He was hospitalized for five days. The chairman also noted that he is a diabetic and his physicians characterized him as overweight.
Chiarelli said he had been fully vaccinated in February of 2021, but contracted COVID-19 in November.
“If it wasn’t from my wife, who found me on the bedroom floor, I probably would not be here today to speak of this,” Chiarelli said. “It’s very important that I do speak of this. There were treatment opportunities available and I was not aware of them.”
Chiarelli advocated for the availability of monoclonal antibody treatments in Winnebago County, which was approved for use in December 2020.
According to doctors at OSF Saint Anthony, the monoclonal immunotherapy infusion has been approved for high-risk, adult COVID patients with moderate symptoms.
Medical experts say the treatment is most effective when administered within the first 10 days of symptoms.
Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd also shared an experience of getting COVID-19, which put her out of commission for 4 weeks, she said.
“Luckily I had family there and friends that were supporting me during this ordeal, because I will tell you, there were times where I thought I was going to give up,” Redd said. “I could literally see myself not being here, wondered what life was going to be like for my kids without their mom, because that’s how sick I was.”
Martell, McNamara, Chiarelli and Redd urged residents to get a vaccine, with Martell saying, “it’s our first line of defense. We’ve broken through our first line.” She said monoclonal antibody treatments are the second line of defense and it is currently at risk, as they are not as effective against the omicron variant.
She said the County is currently recommending the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that says once a person tests positive for COVID-19, they need to isolate for five days.